AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ALWOODLEY
Alwoodley is a township in the ecclesiastical parish of Moor-Allerton, 7 miles south-east from Otley and 5 north from Leeds, in the Union of Wharfedale. The Leeds Corporation Water Works have a reservoir near here, covering 109 acres. George R. Lane Fox esq. M.P. of Bramham Park, is the lord of the manor and principal landowner. The soil is light; the subsoil sandy. The chiff crops are oats, barley and turnips. The area is 1,238 acres of land and 70 of water; rateable value, £12,086; the population in 1901 was 147.
Wall Letter Box at Alwodley Gates cleared at 9.45a.m. and 7.15p.m. week days and 7.15 p.m. on Sunday. Moortown about 1 mile distant, is the nearest money order and telegraph office.
Kelly's Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1908, p387
It is remarkable that less than a century ago Alwoodley had fewer than a hundred and fifty people living within its bounds. It remained an isolated agricultural community whose leading citizens comprised of ten farmers, a market gardener and a nurseryman. These people were the major employers of the district who took on local seasonal workers to help them at the busy times of ploughing, planting and harvesting.
There were around forty residences which varied in size from impressive farm-houses to humble cottages. So little had changed since the time of the Domesday survey in 1086. Alwoodley still had a lord of the manor, it still comprised of a few farms scattered across an almost treeless landscape of fields, and the people were still totally dependent on the crops they grew and the animals they kept. The tenants were all of the Christian faith and attended church on Sunday. This was a focal point for social life and they were baptised, married and buried there.
In 1676 George Ogden, Minister of Harewood, reported that there were 189 communicants living in Alwoodley and a survey twelve years later showed that they lived either on one of the twenty two farms or in one of the cottages on the periphery of these holdings. Careful study of the parish registers shows that this was a remarkably stable community with the names of generation after generation of Amblers, Atkinsons, Birkenshaws, Broadbelts, Cawthrays, Cowpers, Cravens, Drakes, Franks, Jennings, Kings, Leakes, Midgleys, Princes, Scorers, Steads, Simpsons, Stevensons and Todds being diligently recorded.
Even the earliest written record, the Domesday survey describes a farming community of approximately half a dozen extended families eking out a living on the land.
All Saints Church, Harewood
But changes had taken place, which are clearly reflected in the 1908 description of the area. Since the Norman period, Alwoodley had formed part of the parish of Harewood. In theory members of the community should have attended All Saints' Church, Harewood, every Sunday, but for some residents, particularly those living on the western bounds of the estate, this meant a long journey. Approximately a third of communicatnts, therefore attended Adel Church. In 1853 Alwoodley and Wigton, along with parts of Chapel Allerton and Shadwell, formed the new parish of Moor Allerton, and the beautiful church of St. Johns was built at its heart. But many of the parishoners were wealthy newcomers to the district. The resided in the area but earned their livelihood in the bureoning, smoky town of Leeds.
The seeds of change had been sown. For centuries the main alignment of Alwoodley had been to Harewood, the main medieval adminstrative base. Even its poor relief was distributed via the Wharfedale Union, but now a process of change had been set in motion that would inexorably draw the settlement within the bounds of Leeds.
The 1908 directory entry acknowledges that a key feature of the area was Leeds Corporation Water Works' reservoir. It was the construction of this facility and the underground pipeline that linked it to the town, that first drew ordinary people into the area. What Kelly fails to note is that Alwoodley had already started to develop as a leisure destination, many Leeds residents choosing to visit at the weekend. This peace wwas soon shattered by the onset of the Great War, which claimed the lived of so many men. When the soldiers returned in 1918 the public were in no mood for compromise. They felt that the state of Englands's housing stock was a national disgrace and 'Homes Fit For Heroes' became a rallying cry.
Harewood Castle replaced the fortification at Dunkeswick as the Normans' main administrative centre.
In 1921 former fields of King Lane Farm were pegged out to form the numbered building plots of The Alwoodley Park Estate. This was the first attempt to provide such affordable housing. Over the next seventy years the population swelled to more than ten thousand as people moved into the area. Farm after farm was sold for either building land or leisure use and, as the farming community of Alwoodley disappeared, agriculture became of negligible importance. This movement to the suburbes was mirrored all over Leeds, but two features made the area unique.
One was the creation of so many high quality golf courses that acted as a magnet to the city's elite. As if to emphasise this, Moortown Golf Club was chosen as the venue of the 1929 Ryder Cup match between the USA and Great Britain, the first held on British soil. Moreover Moor Allerton Golf Club, built on the site of Pikeley Hill Farm, was the first Jewish club in Europe. The second feature was the 'holiday village' that grew up near King Lane in the inter war period. Many who rented accommodation there fell in love with the area and then decided to buy one of the new homes being constructed nearby.
This book seeks to tell the story of Alwoodley from isolated rural settlement to elegant Leeds suburb, using a vast range of documentary material and oral testimony.
As a child growing up in the late 'fifties and early 'sixties I witnessed the final stages of this process of suburbanisation. Some of my happiest memories are of walking up the Meanwood Valley with my parents, brother and sister, bravely crossing the Seven Arches, which had no safety fence at either end, and then hiking onward to the stream near Verity's Tea Shop. Armed with a frying pan, cutlery, crockery, tins of home baking, sausages from the Sykes the Butcher, old newspaper and a bock of matches, we would find a tranquil spot, lay down a rug and got 'chumping' for wood. Once we had enough, dad would light the fire mum would cook the meal while we dammed the stream, searched for crayfish, played 'Pooh sticks' and spent hours on games of 'hide and seek'. We drank water from the Slabbering Baby before finally visiting Adel Crags, where we pretended we were mountain climbers conquering Everest. After a wonderful day 'in the country' we walked home happy, dirty and exhausted.
My love for the district remains unchanged and I hope that this work will enable others to appreciate the history of one of the premier suburbs of Leeds.
16 October 2005
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